Turkey will keep 'speaking up' for rights of Crimeans

Reformed, territorially united, independent Ukraine including Crimea is good for the whole region, says Turkish deputy FM

Turkey will keep 'speaking up' for rights of Crimeans

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal


Turkey will continue to “stand on the side of international law and speak up for the rights of Crimeans” amid Russia’s illegal occupation of Ukraine’s territory, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yildiz said Thursday. 

Speaking at an international conference in London on Ukraine, Yildiz said, “The Crimea fatigue will be as counter-productive as the broader Ukraine fatigue, and this is what the international community should aim to prevent.” 

The Ukraine Reform 2017 conference was hosted by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. 

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, leading the gathering, delivered opening remarks stressing his government’s reform plans. 

Groysman told the conference that he is very proud of Ukraine’s achievements over the last three years, as it has implemented reforms in many fields, including banking, the civil service, the electoral system, health care, state procurement and anti-corruption policies.  

He said the Ukrainian people chose dignity in 2014 despite the loss of hundreds of lives, referring to violent anti-government protests which led to the overthrow of then-President Victor Yanukovich. This was followed by an illegal independence vote and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. 

‘Ukraine with Crimea best for the region’ 

Johnson praised Ukraine in his opening remarks, saying that it has implemented more reforms in the past three years than in the two decades since its independence, but also urged their continuation, saying “there are some worrying signs” of the reform process faltering. 

Yildiz, representing Turkey at the conference, said Turkey “strongly believes that a well-reformed, united [and] independent Ukraine that maintains its territorial integrity including Crimea is good for the whole region…but most importantly it is important for Ukrainians.” 

Hailing the achievements in Ukraine since 2014 as “encouraging”, Yildiz said: “We will continue to support Ukraine… including the strategic plan presented by Prime Minister Groysman.” 

“This support will include, among others, also some credit lines, humanitarian assistance, as pledged before but most importantly private sector investment from Turkey,” he added. 

“As Secretary Johnson emphasized, private sector investment really makes a difference but unfortunately many of Ukraine’s structural challenges emanate from the problematic relationship between business and politics. In addition to constitutional and legislative changes, needed without delay, we think there are also some things the government could do right now,” he said. 

Yildiz said they encourage Turkish businesses to come to or remain in Ukraine by telling them that “we believe as the government in the future of Ukraine.” 

“In return the Ukrainian administration can take some bold steps demonstrating that it will no longer tolerate and will remedy cases where foreign investors were unfairly treated or simply elbowed out,” he said. 

Donbas conflict

“When Ukraine adopts inclusive politics and builds inclusive institutions, it will become more resilient despite what is going on in Crimea and in Donbas," a section of eastern Ukraine racked by conflict with pro-Russian separatists, said Yildiz.

Underlining that the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements to halt the Donbas conflict cannot be ignored, Yildiz said: “Despite the lack of satisfaction in progress, still, this agreement offers a basic plan to be implemented in full and is supported by us.” 

“As for Crimea, we will continue to stand on the side of international law and speak up for the rights of Crimeans in general and Crimean Tatars” in particular, he added.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed Russian’s annexation of Ukraine illegal, and the U.S., EU, and Turkey among other countries do not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.

Since the illegal annexation, Turkey has stressed the safety and well-being of Crimean Tatars and decried their oppression under Russian rule.

Yildiz also said that in recent years the “highest-level dialogue between the two countries [Turkey and Ukraine] has helped a lot, including the contact and interaction in all fields, including investment, tourism and politics.” 

“As Turkish diplomats, we hope for and support its continuation,” he concluded.

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